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Sylvan - Sceneries CD (album) cover

SCENERIES

Sylvan

 

Neo-Prog

3.91 | 348 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars Long disc, long review.

I have given this 2Cd release a very wide berth, as befits all long-winded albums that, too often have glittering prizes entangled with parasitic dross. At first spin strangely, I was not overtly impressed, perhaps overwhelmed by so much compact and dense material, as if one huge epic, reminiscent of Tales From Topographic Oceans' bombastic and much debated overkill. But with repeated sonic orbits, the scenery (pun!) became clearer and somehow more coalescing towards sheer, unadulterated enjoyment. Less metallic than the glorified "Posthumous Silence" due to Volker Sohl's piano and Marco Gluhmann's massive voice now being the major architects, Sceneries is without question or any hesitation on my part, Sylvan's ultimate prog masterpiece.

Firstly, the album must be listened to in one fall swoop, absorbed and understood as the platform that will consecrate Marco as modern music's most striking voice. He has grown immensely as a vocalist by incorporating a wider variety of tone and accent, sounding analogous to such legendary singers as Bono, Peter Murphy and Steve Hoggarth while still remaining the quixotic and passionate howler that he always was. I will of course refer to these aspects later in the analysis but the music now serves a foil for some intense singing of the highest order, arguably one of prog's most evident weakness and rarity . (When Greg Lake keeps winning prog vocalist polls in 2012, you know there is a problem behind the mike!)

Secondly, the piano has most evidently become the lead magical wand, serviced by Jan Petersen's more textured axe playing, as opposed to the previous dominance by Kay Sohl and the keys becoming the coloratura. After numerous comprehensive spins that suddenly make the sounds familiar, the music becomes pristine, delicate and yet powerfully expressive, loaded with a kaleidoscope of mosaic resonance that titillates with exquisite restraint. The tight rhythm section has never been questioned though the bass is not as upfront as before. Sylvan has decided to play as a Mannschaft (team) and the results are simply astounding. But the real shocker is the voice, a confident and self-assured instrument of captivating emotion that reveals a true star at work and at play. I am still bowled over.

Only multiple auditions can bloom this forest of flowers into a paradise. The more you listen to it, the more addictive it gets. Piano and voice is how they gustily forge this monster album forward, Marco trembling passionately in bluesy kind of way, highly confident yet relaxed, a sign of incredible musical maturity, similar to love-making (fear of censors, Thomas?), you learn to relax and enjoy as you mature! The instrumental breaks are fast, at times funky and soberly furious. Like the legendary Christian Décamps of Ange, Marco can actually sing and in a multitude of textures and tones to boot! Theatrical? You bet your Shakespeare or Molière! He really can yelp, plead, caress and serenade at will, a sensitive amalgam of many brilliant voices, all ensconced in a massive torrent of sound that they have mastered, cognizant technique, musical team spirit cresting at 100% and a clear vision, which for an epic album that can only be appreciated in a complete listen must label itself as a colossal rarity! Sylvan pull it off in a myriad of spades, throw in a few shovels and some toolboxes while you are at it! Bombastic, romantic and relentlessly unhurried, with multiple bombshell twists and sublime excursions that negate categorization as just "Neo-prog". At times, symphonic, folky, jazzy and then suddenly bombastic, with splashes of alternative and modern paint This is a sizzling voyage of utter prog determination, solid and unpredictable, evocative, honest and sincere. But Marco Glühmann steals the show with a vocal tour de force performance, the elegant piano the obvious "fil conducteur" , appearing as the pied-piper of musical dreams, luxuriantly bathing in a kaleidoscope of sounds, while guitarist Jan Petersen flashes some ripping dazzle when needed and even he takes his time in exploding. Strength and restraint are the words to describe the equipoise of this Hamburg-based band of brothers (even though Kay Sohl is now gone!)

This is a humongous success with absolutely no dead weight filler and mostly colossally perfect symphonic prog, with unending innovation in exploring new vistas and expressing them accordingly. That folks (volk in German) is called genius. The atmosphere goes from the utter nadir, screaming up to up to highest Everest and they do so with gusto and panache. There are numerous winks at Marbles, Marillion's epic work but Sylvan simply blows Hoggarth and crew out of the water and I am in no way referring to the rather unglorious "Sink the Bismarck" episode in early WW2 with its massive horror casualties. Sylvan doesn't get as heavy as in the past, but when they do, hold on to your sauerkraut, the guys go on a monumental tear as they elevate their craft to a completely new level. There is even a segment where Marco sounds at times like the lascivious Peter Murphy (ex-Bauhaus), it's almost scary like a Dracula-infested Halloween party! But it works brilliantly as Marco then veers the band into new, almost Floydian territory demonstrating that controlled restraint and assuredness. The symphonic orchestrations release a new steamroller riff, doomsday explosions of despair and pain with the voice pleadingly surfing on the musical crest, going under and then over once again, reigning supreme. The psychedelics kick in and the mood gets creamier, with more Pink references and a leisurely pace only serves to further engulf the listener. By the end of the second CD, the lusty rhythms have raged furiously in whirlwind splendor, raising the bar even higher by diving and soaring according to the need and want. Petersen's axe unleashes its power liberally, weaving slippery leads almost at will, enriching the angst to the nth degree. Ebb and flow, cadence and cascade, power and glory.

As so poignantly stated by lazland, if there is one 2012 album that you need to incorporate in your collection, Sceneries is the one! Rarely have I witnessed such a cavalcade of stirring melodies on one release, panacea for the soul and ear candy for the mind. An exhilarating ride! A masterpiece has arrived.

5 polyvalent panoramas

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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